Growing up, we had big Thanksgivings with nearly 20 people which usually meant a turkey weighing in at more than twenty pounds. My mom got up at 5am to put the bird in the oven and we spent the day cleaning and cooking, preparing for the feast we looked forward to once a year. There was the formal adults table in the dining room and then there was the "kids" table in the living room. We fought over who had to say grace and then began our meal with my Nana's fruit cocktail and sherbet (This was so normal to me growing up but looking back at it, how strange to begin a meal with ice cream?!?!) We then proceeded to sit for way too long eating way too much food and loving every second of it. There were lots of people, lots of noise and lots of food.
Part of being married is learning to let go of the traditions you grew up with and embrace the new ones that come with gaining a second family. Since getting married, Will and I now spend our Thanksgivings in New York with his parents. It is a much smaller, much quieter holiday now but still just as lovely. (However, with with the addition of Nathan and soon to be Baby #2, I am sensing a little bit of the wonderful chaos I grew up with seeping back into the holiday.)
The first Thanksgiving we spent with Will's family, I will admit I had a small, emotional breakdown when I found out we weren't having turkey. NO TURKEY??? ON THANKSGIVING????? I couldn't even comprehend the words as they came out of Will's mouth. "But that's the whole point of Thanksgiving!! Eating turkey!!" (Sure, there's the whole giving thanks for all the blessings in your life too, but at that moment, I could think of turkey, and nothing else.)
I told myself it wasn't a big deal and that I would prepare Will and I a traditional turkey dinner later that weekend to enjoy together. In addition, Will did a little research and found every single restaurant in NYC that would be serving a traditional Thanksgiving dinner that weekend and let me know we could go to whichever one I wanted, bonus points for him that year. Deep down though, I was still a little sad on the morning of Thanksgiving to know that I would NOT be eating turkey. I'm sure a lot of that emotion had to do with spending my first Thanksgiving away from my family but on that day, I focused all of my emotions on the turkey-less dinner we would be having.
I'll never forget that day. As soon as we arrived for dinner, my mother-in-law (who must have heard that I was a little disappointed about the turkey, or lack thereof) turned to me with a big smile on her face and said "We have a turkey." Words can't describe how excited I was. In what felt like slow motion, I turned towards the table, eyes darting, searching frantically for the bird. And what I saw instead, there in the center of the table, was this....
|The original fruit turkey|
It was a fruit turkey, completely made by hand by my mother-in-law. "I saw it in a magazine at the dentist's office the other day, isn't it cute?" I don't even know how to properly describe what went through my mind in that moment. My heart sunk as my first thought was "That's not a real turkey" but then I immediately starting laughing and smiling at how thoughtful her gesture was. I had been so focused on how I felt about the changes that were happening, I hadn't given any thought to how they were feeling. Suddenly they had to welcome someone new to their holiday and instead of celebrating their usual way, they welcomed me with a fruit turkey, possibly the most thoughtful gift I've ever received.
|Our first Thanksgiving together, 2008|
In the years since, our meal has evolved. We now have a ham and a turkey. Sauteed vegetables and stuffing. Fruit turkey and pumpkin pie.The fruit turkey serves as our centerpiece every year and will always remind me of the first Thanksgiving we spent together as a family. To me, it symbolizes two families coming together, forming new traditions and making new memories. And that is certainly something to be thankful for.